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Crimes | Types of Criminal Charges » Driving Attorney | Minnesota Driving Offenses » Fleeing Police vs Criminal Intent

Fleeing Police vs Criminal Intent

Minnesota has two variations on Fleeing Police crimes. One is Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle. The other is Fleeing Police – Other Than Vehicle.

Both crimes are in Minnesota Statutes Section 609.487.

Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle

Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle is now a felony. The base felony carries a three year maximum prison. And enhancers for substantial bodily harm carry a five year max; great bodily harm up to seven years, and death up to 40 years. But the most common charge is the base level, Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle (no injuries).

In addition to the criminal penalties, the court certifies a conviction to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS). Then DPS will revoke the convicted defendant’s driver’s license.

“Motor vehicle” means every self-propelled vehicle, including snowmobiles, off-road recreational vehicles, and motorboats.

Fleeing Police – Not in a Vehicle

For the “Other than in a Vehicle” version of the offense, the penalty is a misdemeanor rather than a felony. And, since it does not involve a motor vehicle, Minnesota has no driver’s license revocation.

fleeing-police-woman 300
Fleeing police – motor vehicle

Every criminal law requires factual proof that various “elements” or key ingredients of the criminal statute are proven. If the evidence does not prove the elements of the criminal statute, then “not-guilty.” And this includes Fleeing Police cases.

One of the elements of every criminal statute is called “criminal intent.” The law describes different levels of criminal intent. But without knowledge of a predicate fact, there can be no criminal intent. And knowledge is a threshold factual issue in many Fleeing cases.

“Did the person know or reasonably should have known that a police officer wanted the person to stop.” Of course, we humans are unable to read minds. We must communicate with each other in some way, in order to be understood.

“Knows or should reasonably know the same to be a peace officer”

When we attempt communication, we may feel that we made our intentions clear. And we often feel that the other’s failure to understand us is “unreasonable.” But that is not always true.

We have a reasonableness standard in the law; a more objective standard for determining a person’s subjective “intent” (including “knowledge”). Cases sometimes refer to this as a “reasonable person standard.”

A police officer may indicate an intent to invoke state-power, and order a stop with the take-down lights. If that did not work quickly enough, the police officer might activate the squad car siren. Failing that, the officer might give a verbal command over the car’s PA speaker. And police have even more methods of communication available.

“Because the innocent will flee violence and injustice as quickly as the guilty; fleeing cannot be true evidence of guilt.”

Thomas Gallagher

In a pedestrian Fleeing case case, the police officer may not have technology to communicate a stop order. They may simply make a verbal command, sometimes shouting in a commanding tone.

In some cases, the person did not stop quickly enough, unaware that a police officer wanted them to stop. If so, that person is not-guilty of this crime.

Another issue is the statute’s requirement: “Knows or should reasonably know the same to be a peace officer.” We see news stories frequently about people impersonating police. How, and when, do we know they are real? Does any evidence support that conclusion?

“intent to elude a peace officer” or “avoid arrest, detention or investigation”

In another common fact pattern, the person does stop but not fast enough to satisfy the police officer. The police officer may experience adrenaline-effects where time seems to go into slow-motion. Meanwhile the driver or pedestrian is experiencing real time. And the laws of physics always trump human laws. So a body in motion at a constant velocity will tend to remain in motion. And deceleration takes some time. In this situation, the police officer may perceive events differently than the rest of us. But fortunately, these days we often have squad-car and body-cam video recordings, with time stamps in the video.

Sometimes a driver has anxiety about whether an apparent traffic stop by a police officer is legit. (This law only requires stopping for real police, licensed, etc.) Or, the driver may be looking for a safe place to pull over. And here again, it’s possible for a police officer and the driver to perceive things differently.

But if the real issue is one of perception, the law resolves doubt in favor of the driver. Why? Because one premise of any crime is intent (including knowledge). Therefore, the law requires the jury to view the facts from the point-of-view of the defendant (and not the police).

Vehicle Forfeiture in Fleeing Police cases

Sometimes police will seize a motor vehicle and issue the owner a Notice of Administrative Forfeiture. For more on challenging that, see our page on Asset Forfeiture cases. But spoiler alert: the law has short deadline for taking action to challenge the forfeiture in court. So don’t wait.

Question about a Fleeing Police case?

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